Today I had a relatively easy wake-up, and I was able to take my time with my morning tai chi routine.  Instead of the two qi gong routines taking a total of five or six minutes, they took me about fifteen minutes; and I spent about a half-hour working only on the tai chi routine.  This was just what my body needed: there was a lot of popping and crackling as some of the physical tightnesses I’ve had for a while loosened up and worked free.

I was also surprised at how easy it was to hold some of the postures for a five-count or a six-count of breaths.  I’ve really gotten a lot stronger as a result of this daily exercise, and the thing that I learned from slowing down today was this: if I want to increase my capacity in tai chi beyond where I currently am, I’m going to have to slow down, a lot.  I have to take more time.  I have to allow myself a longer period of time to work through the tai chi form — not a half hour for two qi gong forms, and a tai chi form, but a half an hour for just the tai chi, and probably another half-hour for the qi gong (even if I have to learn the Magnum Mysterium form I keep threatening to do.

Time is the essential component of any practice, be it physical, spiritual, mental, social or economic. Without the investment of time in anything, you don’t get better at it.  You don’t make progress past obstacles, you don’t move past difficulties, and you don’t make the mistakes that cause you to learn how to do it better.  None of the things you want to accomplish, ultimately, are achieved by day-dreaming; they’re achieved by doing, or by working. And that can’t be done if you don’t take the time to do the thing right, any time you have the time to do it right.

Most of the time, I just do a breath in and a breath out on each posture.  But today, taking the time to do five or six breaths on each posture, and two or three breaths on each change between postures, I learned just how much more room there is to slow down, and do it right.  It’s kind of like that moment when you’ve been climbing a mountain, and you’re going up a steep section.  The top of the mountain looks as high away as the sky, but gradually it draws closer, and closer, and finally you’re at the top.  But then you look out and up from your new vantage point, and look! There’s the real summit of the mountain, a lot higher up and a lot farther away than you thought it was! You were only coming up to the top of the first big incline (or the second, or the third, or whatever). These moments can be moments of disappointment; they can be, for some, the place where one turns around and goes back down, beaten by weather or the challenges of the trail ahead.

Or they can be the places where you press on, regardless.